This study sought to build on a successful jail diversion program and gang prevention programs developed and implemented in schools in Shelby County, Tennesee, by evaluating the implementation, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of school safety strategies in Shelby County Middle Schools (SCMS).
Shelby County School (SCS) district in Tennessee, in partnership with RTI International, presented an opportunity to conduct a randomized controlled trial of school safety strategies. This study sought to build on a successful jail diversion program and gang prevention programs developed and implemented in high schools in Shelby County and expanded to middle schools by evaluating the implementation, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of school safety strategies in Shelby County Middle Schools (SCMS). The study implemented a school-randomized mixed methods design to evaluate the implementation, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of three types of school safety strategies: (1) middle school TAU, which consisted of PBIS; (2) SFSS programs, which include a suspension diversion program and gang prevention/intervention (SHAPE); and (3) comprehensive school safety strategies (CHSS), which include the suspension diversion program, gang prevention/intervention, police officer presence on the routes kids travel to and from school, and data sharing with other school district departments and local partners. Outcomes include better school climate, improved perceptions of school safety, increased perceptions of gangs at school, and enhanced collaboration and communication. Results of the study were mixed, and implementation challenges were noted. The study reveals the complexities in large school settings. Results from this evaluation will allow for actionable knowledge about what works in improving student and school-level safety, including resource allocation, and have the potential to improve decision-making by state and local agencies, school and community service providers, and policymakers who work to improve student and school climate outcomes.